Nicholas Cage is one of those actors whose career has unfortunately pretty much tanked. Before that he was in some genuinely good films, 8MM being one of them. This film was not received well by the majority of critics, but for the life of me I can’t understand why. Roger Ebert was one of the only film critics to like this and I must agree with him, 8MM is a well constructed, well acted thriller that will have you locked in from start to finish.
Nicholas Cage is a perfect fit for this role, plain and simple. Cage brings his lovability that we saw in films like The Family Man and his high octane intensity we’ve seen in several of his films. I love that they chose to build up his character and give him a home life and family so that we are able to relate to him and really connect with him on a human level. Sometimes when thrills or action come in, character development goes out, but not here… here we get a fleshed out lead character which helps the film immensely. I really loved his performance the whole way through, we know what kind of man he is and his strong moral center is consistent throughout. I hate Cage’s career has done what it’s done because I watch a film like this and see just how talented he is and how great he is at leading us through a film. Cage aside, the supporting cast does a great job as well, including Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, and Catherine Keener. Gandolfini gives a very skilled performance as a slimy porn boss, a role that he was honestly born to play. He plays the character with glee and revels in the nastiness of it all which makes things more intense.
Phoenix plays a young guy who works in a porn shop in LA and does a good job with the rougher type of character. He has less to do in this film than other cast members but because he’s such a talented actor he makes the most out of his screen time. The plot is cleverly constructed and keeps the audiences attention the whole way through. Very dark ideas and worlds are explored and I like how the film doesn’t sugar coat things, I think it’s important to be real about what the subject matter is. You may think this films theme is illegal porn and snuff but it’s really about greed and power. Greed and power is what motivates the evil that’s portrayed here and I think the screenplay does a great job at exposing it. That’s one of the great things about 8MM, it’s not some mindless thriller, it has themes and commentary. I can’t give away the exact context in which this line is said but I want to quote one exchange between two characters that I thought was poignant and clever. “Why?!” “Because he could…”. That exchange among a couple others like it really hit me because it reveals a truly terrifying nature of the motivations behind certain evil crimes. The script is laid out in a way that packs the thrills and keeps things moving relatively fast but it also stops along the way to get to know people and try to understand the nature of what’s revealed.
It’s hard to beat a smart thriller and that’s for sure what this is. Underneath the depraved acts that are shown onscreen is a warmth, a sense of morality. This is not something like Hostel in which we endure a lot of gore and carnage for nothing, here we actually have genuinely good moral people who want to do the right thing. Several of the later scenes put the films beating heart on display, one features Cage having a semi meltdown and demand to know why this awful thing occurred. I love that scene because that gives voice to what we are feeling in the audience and hopefully to what anyone would feel during this situation. Expressing the rage and utter confusion at the horrific acts is appropriate and a very real reaction. Joe Schumacher directed this and I must commend him on a job well done, he captures the scenes very well. He happens to be one of my favorite directors and here, just like in his other films, you can see his talent at work. An abundance of talent and dedication to their craft is what makes 8MM such an effective well made thriller.
This is a smart, well written, well acted thriller that’ll keep you interested from start to finish. I’m with Roger Ebert on this one! 8MM is a winner!
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